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review 2019-12-04 23:51
The Twelve Caesars
The Twelve Caesars - Suetonius,Michael Grant,Robert Graves

For the past two millennia Caesar has denoted the absolute ruler of an empire, a legacy of one man who ruled Rome and the men who succeeded him and used his name.  The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius gives biographical sketches of the men who ruled the Western world for a century and a half, from the end of the Republic to the death of Domitian.

 

Each of Suetonius’ biographies follow the similar pattern in which the individual’s heritage, political-military career, private lives, personal habits, and physical appearance.  Though the pattern is the same, Suetonius’ style is to slowly weave in elements of one section into another—except for physical appearance—thus not breaking a nice flow for the reader.  As the main source of Caligula (Gaius in the text), Claudius, and Vespasian’s family history, Suetonius not only adds on top of Tacitus but covers what was lost from his contemporary’s works.  Yet unlike Tacitus, gossip and innuendo features a lot in the work making this book a little bit racy compared to Suetonius’ contemporary.

 

The translation by Robert Graves—of I, Claudius fame—was wonderfully done and did a lot to give the text a great flow.  Of Suetonius’ text the overwhelming use of portents and omens was a bit too much at times, though given the time period of the historian’s life this superstitious view was a part of everyday life.

 

The Twelve Caesars gives another view of the men who ruled the Western world.  Suetonius’ writing style and subject matter contrast with Tacitus but only for the better for the reader of both who get a full picture of the individuals the two contemporary historians cover.

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review 2019-09-22 03:20
Wonderful photos
Antiquity Echoes: A Photographed Tour of Abandoned America - Rusty Tagliareni,Christian Mathews

This is a wonderfully photographed book. I haven't watched the videos yet, but the photos are stunning. The title is somewhat misleading as the focus is on the PA, NJ, and NY. But there is so much packed in here.

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review 2019-07-04 00:02
The History of the Peloponnesian War
The History of the Peloponnesian War - Donald Lateiner,David Lateiner,Richard Crawley,Thucydides

Two political-economic systems compete for influence and dominance after the greatest war that has ever happened, but peace could not last.  The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides covers the first twenty years of the war between Athens and Sparta before it’s abrupt ending, but throughout his text the motives of the participants and the analysis of unintended consequences shows give the war it’s full context.

 

The first book—created by later editors not Thucydides—of the work focuses on early Greek history, political commentary, and seeks to explain how the war was caused and why it happened when it did.  Over the course of Books 2 through 8, Thucydides covered not only the military action of the war but also the numerous political machinations that both sides encouraged in each other’s allied cities or in neutrals to bring them to their side.  The war is presented in a chronological manner for nearly the entire work with only two or three diversions in either historical context or to record what happened elsewhere during the Sicilian Expedition that took up Books 6 & 7.  The sudden ending of the text reveals that Thucydides was working hard on the work right up until he died, years after the conflict had ended.

 

The military narrative is top notch throughout the book which is not a surprise given Thucydides’ time as an Athenian general before his exile.  Even though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was positively and negatively critical of both Athens and Sparta especially when it came to demagogues in Athenian democracy and severe conservatism that permeated Spartan society in all its facets.  Though Thucydides’ created the prebattle and political speeches he relates, is straightforwardness about why he did it does not take away from the work.  If there is one negative for the work is that Thucydides is somewhat dry which can make you not feel the urge to pick up the book if you’ve been forced to set it down even though you’ve been enjoying the flow of history it describes.

 

The History of the Peloponnesian War though unfinished due to Thucydides death was both a continuation of the historic genre that Herodotus began but also a pioneering work as it recorded history as it happened while also using sources that Thucydides was able to interview.  If you enjoy reading history and haven’t read this classic in military history, then you need to.

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text 2019-05-31 19:45
May wrap-up
Remember the Future (The Chronicles of the Harekaiian #9) - Shanna Lauffey
Cats in Origami - Nick Robinson
The Great Wizards of Antiquity - Guy Ogilvy
The Deathless - Peter Newman
The Parisian - Isabella Hammad
The Flavors of Other Worlds: 13 Science Fiction Tales from a Master Storyteller - Alan Dean Foster
Splendor Solis - Stephen Skinner
One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) - Mark Lawrence
The Illustrated Bestiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Inspiring Animals - Maia Toll
Animation 1: Learn to Animate Cartoons Step by Step (Cartooning, Book 1) - Preston J. Blair

A whopping 17 books finished this month, but 10 of them were non-fiction.

 

Stand outs in the fiction were Remember the Future by Shanna Lauffey and Flavors of Other Worlds by Alan Dean Foster.

 

The non-fiction all had their relative merits, but Cats in Origami and Animation 1 are probably most useful to me.

 

A lot of these were from Netgalley. I'm catching up!

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review 2019-05-04 15:12
The Great Wizards of Antiquity
The Great Wizards of Antiquity - Guy Ogilvy

by Guy Ogilvy

 

I have to admit I was expecting this to be more biographical about the known magicians in history, but it actually turned out to be even more interesting.

 

The first part covers the prehistoric culture of the Lion Man and tribal magic, then it moves on to the Orphic and Dionysian cults and the great figures of myth, which I found very interesting. A lot of history and basically anthropology comes into it, then it moves forward in history eventually coming to mathematicians and alchemists, some of whom are better known like Paracelsus, though I have to admit a little disappointment that John Dee and Nicholas Flamel got left out as these are two of the most relevant personages in the history of magic. But then another reviewer said there was a series, so maybe we'll eventually see even relatively modern magicians like Crowley, Austin Spare, Jaq D. Hawkins and Peter J. Carroll!

 

The writing style might seem dry to some, but those of us who enjoy mythology don't mind that. The personal experiences of the author also lent interest. Altogether a fascinating and well researched piece of work.

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